The Most Desirable Photos, From a Presenter’s Perspective

By: Edna Landau

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

I would like to thank the following individuals who helped me prepare this week’s column: Naomi Grabel, Director, Marketing and Creative Services, Carnegie Hall; DeAnna Sherer, Coordinator, Artistic Programs, Carnegie Hall; Monica Parks, Director of Publications, The New York Philharmonic; Christopher Beach, President & Artistic Director, La Jolla Music Society; Martin Schott, Director, Creative Services, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

Dear Edna:

I am a violinist who will be graduating with an Artist Diploma from an American conservatory next month. I am fortunate in having won a few competitions which gave me performing opportunities and I have additional ones scheduled in the coming year. I have been advised to invest time and money in getting high quality photos, as well as creating a website. Can you please tell me what I should keep in mind when I prepare for a photo shoot. Am I aiming for portraits or performance photos? Should I be dressed formally or casually? How many photos should I hope to walk away with at the end of the session? Thank you.—Catherine D.

Dear Catherine:

In doing a little research in order to best answer your question, I realized how much has changed since my early days as an artist manager. At that time, we usually sent two black and white head shots, one formal and one informal, and of course they were not digital. When I spoke recently with Monica Parks, Director of Publications at the New York Philharmonic, she stressed the importance of the format of the photos that are submitted today. They look for photos that are at least 300 dpi (dots per inch) or better, and a fairly large file size. This allows them to use the photos in various ways. They can shnrink photos but not enlarge them. It is helpful to have room around the image to allow for cropping. They are looking for color, rather than black and white, and a variety of posed and performance shots. (She mentioned that even in the case of singers and conductors, they welcome some action shots.) It is ok to submit posed photos both with and without your instrument. She also said that it is helpful to have images facing in different directions so they can have maximum flexibility when placing them in printed materials on the right or left side. Of course, a straight on image works in any layout.

Christopher Beach, President of the La Jolla Music Society, told me that they print photos as full pages in their brochure, with overlaid text. Therefore, the quality of the photos is of utmost importance. They need to receive a variety of photos, formal and informal, vertical and horizontal, in color and possibly black and white. For him, it is essential that the photo include the artist’s instrument so that his audience (who may not be familiar with an artist) immediately makes the association and knows what they will be hearing. A performance photo is best. As to the “mood” of the photos, he said: “The best pictures have emotion, and emotion helps to sell tickets.” While some presenters rule out using photos with the artist’s eyes shut, he feels such pictures can be effective and convey great emotion. Naomi Grabel, Director of Marketing at Carnegie Hall, agrees that performance shots are far more exciting than head shots. In choosing photos for their publicity materials, they look for energy, exuberance, dynamism, action and warmth. They feel that the right photograph helps to create a connection between the artist and the audience before they even arrive at the hall.

It is obviously desirable to walk away from a photo shoot with a variety of photos, action and posed, and to be able to use as many as you like. This allows you to alternate them in different years and among different venues, as long as you still look the same! If you and the photographer want to experiment with some full-length shots or fashion oriented photographs that might someday be useful, especially if you are the subject of a feature story, that might prove worthwhile, but keep them in reserve for the appropriate occasion. For those pianists who might be reading this column,  It would be wise to avoid any temptation to replicate some photos I have seen of female pianists in floor length gowns, sprawled over the top of their instrument. Let good sense and good taste always be your guide.

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

© Edna Landau 2012

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